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Originally published Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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New ASU coach Graham faring fine compared to high-profile hires

It's a kaleidoscope of changing images, but this week, at least, it looks like it was Arizona State that hit the home run with its football...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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The two strike bunt was only for folks not paying attention. Graham has been the real... MORE
SamB is 100% correct. Coach Graham was defnitely a known enough entity prior to the beg... MORE

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It's a kaleidoscope of changing images, but this week, at least, it looks like it was Arizona State that hit the home run with its football hire last winter, when it appeared ASU had bunted foul with two strikes.

Remember, it was Washington State landing Mike Leach and Arizona signing Rich Rodriguez that stole the headlines, and to a lesser extent, UCLA when it attracted Jim Mora.

Well, Saturday, Leach and Rodriguez took ugly defeats, and Mora experienced his first loss as Bruins coach. Meanwhile, ASU rocked Utah, and is only a failed goal-line series at Missouri from being undefeated.

"That was a good football team, and we totally dominated them," Graham told reporters unabashedly after the 37-7 wipeout of Utah.

Of course, snap judgments tend to have a shelf life in what looks to be a competitive, unpredictable conference.

What We Learned

The Beavers have teeth. Oregon State captured its second straight victory over a ranked opponent (UCLA) for the first time since its glorious, 11-1 season in 2000.

They seem to have solved their two most nagging questions coming off a 3-9 season: Could they stop the run, and could their offensive line be successful? At UCLA, they throttled Jonathan Franklin — a second straight back, along with Wisconsin's Montee Ball, who had drawn Heisman mention — allowing only 45 yards on 12 carries.

On the other side of the ball, they blocked well enough to run for 122 yards and allowed Sean Mannion to throw for 379.

The Cougars function better as underdogs. The past three times WSU has been favored in conference games — you have to scour the archives even to find it — Washington State has failed miserably.

Twice as a small favorite against Oregon State (2011, 2007), the Cougars got routed. And as a three-touchdown choice against Colorado, WSU had a shocking collapse in the last seven minutes to lose 35-34.

That will happen when you allow 255 fourth-quarter yards, just 35 yards short of what Colorado was averaging a game against middling opposition. And offensively, WSU threw 28 incompletions against a secondary manned almost the entire way by two true-freshman cornerbacks.

Cal continues to perplex against USC. A week after an encouraging effort at Ohio State, Cal did what it always does against the Trojans — misfire offensively, and disappoint. The Bears lost 27-9, after averaging 10 points in an eight-game losing streak to USC that just hit nine.

Last week's supernova, Brendan Bigelow, carried the ball exactly four times in the second half and hardly played in the first half. Coach Jeff Tedford, 1-3 for the second time in his 11 seasons in Berkeley, explained, but really didn't: "Early in the game, there really wasn't any room to run," he told the Oakland Tribune. "I don't put that on the backs."

Morgan Breslin is making an immediate impact. USC had big defensive-line concerns entering 2012, but the 6-2, 250-pound JC recruit from the Bay Area is easing that concern. He had 4 ½ tackles for loss, including three sacks, against Cal, giving him 9 ½ and five, respectively.

Chip Kelly has a new toy. Colt Lyerla, one of the most highly recruited players ever to come out of the state of Oregon, is listed as a sophomore tight end. But the 6-5, 238-pound Hillsboro product carried seven times for 63 yards in the 49-0 dispatch of Arizona, putting an element of blast in the Oregon "blur" offense.

Utah is in familiar territory, playing from behind. The Utes began the Pac-12 at 0-4 a year ago, and they again started with a thud at ASU. Most surprising is that a respected defense could give up 512 total yards to the Sun Devils. That once-anticipated Thursday night matchup with USC on Oct. 4 has lost a lot of luster.

This Week

Locally, the action is at CenturyLink Field, with Washington's big Thursday-night game against Stanford, and WSU's Saturday-night game with Oregon, now ranked No. 2. Elsewhere, the big attraction is Oregon State's visit to Arizona.


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